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India: Where citizens can’t take a joke

Alas, India will not see another &ldquo;holy cow moment,&rdquo; said Manjula Narayan in <em>Tehelka.com.<br /> </em>

Manjula NarayanTehelka.com

Twitter almost brought down India’s deputy foreign minister, said Manjula Narayan. Shashi Tharoor has been one of the few Indian politicians to fully embrace the microblogging trend, sending out “articulate and funny” tweets that have won him more than 2 million followers. “Unfortunately for Tharoor, most other Indians don’t give in wholeheartedly to the joys of wordplay, don’t appreciate irony, and seriously cannot tolerate irreverence.”

The trouble began when a journalist criticized the minister for his habit of traveling first-class—a luxury he pays for himself. The reporter asked in a tweet if Tharoor would travel “cattle class” next time. Tharoor shot back, “Absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows!” Cue the outrage machine. Pious Hindus erupted in rage, saying Tharoor had mocked their devotion. Penny pinchers who travel economy class also piled on, saying he had compared them to cattle.

Politicians were about to demand Tharoor’s resignation, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepped in and urged Indians to lighten up. “It was a joke,” Singh said. And sadly for those of us who appreciate wit, it was the last joke the foreign minister allowed himself. “Tharoor’s tweets have now become utterly boring.” Alas, India will not see another “holy cow moment.”

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